CHRISTMAS MAM’S CHRISTMAS CAKE
Place the currants, raisins, sultanas, apricots and cranberries into a large bowl and give them a little mix around with your hands. Pour over the warm tea and the brandy and stir with a wooden spoon to ensure all of the fruit has been coated in some liquid. Cover with a clean tea towel and allow to sit for at least an hour but preferably overnight, or even for a few days. Stir occasionally to ensure that all of the fruit soaks up some of the gorgeous boozy liquid. This will leave you with lovely plump fruit for the cake mixture. Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2. Grease and line two 25cm/10in round or 20cm/8in square cake tins with a double layer of parchment paper. Sift the flour, mixed spice and nutmeg into a large bowl – this is a very big mixture so be sure to use the largest bowl that you have. Add in the ground almonds and give it all a little mix. Add the glacé cherries, mixed peel, ginger and zests and toss in the flour mixture to coat. This will stop them from sinking to the bottom of the cake as it bakes. Add all the chopped nuts and mix evenly through the flour mixture, then mix in the fruit and any remaining soaking liquid. Add the remaining ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until evenly combined. Divide the mixture between the two prepared cake tins. Place the tins onto a baking sheet – this just makes it easier to get the cake in and out of the oven once you have wrapped the outside of the tin. Take a sheet of brown paper and cut a piece that is long enough to wrap the whole way around the cake tin with a little bit of an overlap and tall enough that when you fold it in half lengthways, then fold in half lengthways again, and then one last time, the edge is still a little above the edge of the tin. Wrap it around the outside of the cake tin and secure with some twine. This is to insulate the sides of the cake and prevent them from burning as it is in the oven for a long time. If you don’t have any brown paper to hand some sheets of newspaper will do the same job. Place in the preheated oven. Check after 2 hours and, if necessary, cover the top with a double layer of greaseproof paper with a roughly 2cm hole cut out of the centre – this allows the steam to escape while stopping the top from browning too much or burning. Bake for a further hour and then check with a skewer inserted into the centre. If the skewer comes out clean the cake is done. If it needs longer, return it to the oven, checking at intervals of 15 minutes. Once baked remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin overnight, or at least for a few hours, until completely cool. Remove from the tin and pierce all over with a skewer and drizzle with some brandy. Remove the parchment paper it was baked in and wrap in a double layer of greaseproof paper followed by a double layer of tinfoil and store in a cool, dry place. You can ‘feed’ with alcohol every couple of weeks if you wish by simply unwrapping and drizzling with another 2 tablespoons of brandy. Before serving the cake, cover with marzipan and icing if you wish. You can either make your own icing or buy it ready-made.